Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A vigil in honour of Los 33: The Chile miners.

It is 20:00 hours in Abidjan, today, Tuesday, October 12, 2010. I have just had dinner. I am going to have a bath then come back to the computer. I want to follow every inch of the 'unearthing of the los 33' whose images here I took from John's Labour blog.

Thirty three guys who have been underground for 69 days and nights! Two weeks after they were caved in, there were no contacts. Almost everyone had lost hope! And today, they will be coming back up!

I dont have any idea what these guys are going through, I only know that they will have a lot of stories to tell. And their families, and friends.. This is a one-in-a-lifetime experience.

I tell myself that after this, when finally they really die, their families will be able to say 'Oh, he has been lower than the grave before'

So why am I keeping a vigil in Abidjan for 33 guys who dont know me?

Here is the answer: humanity is one. The sufferings of one are the sufferings of the others. But most importantly these men have shown courage, patriotism, resilience and love!

These are values that are precious in all of humanity. And that is why over 700 media from the whole world over has also arrived to welcome them!


Can the French beat the Structural Adjustment Programme by striking

The heat is on in the whole of France. I mean we know those guys can strike.. but this time around the French people are really striking.

I have seen strikes in France. Employees who are striking against their management for salary increase or to demand one or more considerations are the workplace. Most recently the strikes were because of relocations, closures and mergers! This one, people were angry because they were losing their jobs. So they are striking 'to be able to remain on the job'.

But this one of this week, folks are striking to be able to "stop working".

And they are not striking against an employer, but against the government! No, in fact, it is against the law makers. The people voted to carry the voice of the people! C'est bizarre, non?

The bone of contention is retirement age. So far, it is retirement at 60. But the government is seeing that 'under the present circumstances' we can longer afford this. Why?

First because the older folks are living longer, thanks to good health care and increased life expectancy. So if a guy worked for 30 years, retires at 60 and lives to be 100, he will be on pension for 40 years!

The second reason is that the people to contribute to the pension system are getting less, thanks to reduced births and also emigration! Here is a government faced with a big chunk of its population getting older and not seeing the youth that will replace them... that will contribute into the social security so their pensions can be paid!

One other issue (Call it a reason if you please) is that the young people that France actually have are not the 'bons français' as a Minister called it recently.

So who is a good French? A good French is the one that is not of African origin, not of Maghrebin origin, not of Asian origin. If he is European, it should not be of the "roaming, wandering and nomadic" type.

I do not envy the French lawmakers. I dont envy the citizens either. I just feel pity for both. First they started hunting down people of the first group - people of African origin and started repatriating them or packing them up in retention camps. That was okay.

Then people of Asian origin - mainly Pakistanis and Afghans, who have escaped from the war were also dislodged. The official reason was that their places of abode were dangerous and they could not stay until they could afford better housing.

The "roaming, wandering and nomadic type" have raised a lot of issues within the EU community. Up to the point that the French government needed to remind Vivian Redding which part of the EU she comes from and how small that part is and how little it ACTUALLY counts!

There is a current bill that will soon be voted. That one will take care of the Maghreb folks. Because those ones are 'officially French', the law will allow for their citizenship to be removed, then...

So all of this 'structural adjustment' is going on. And the working class here are surprising me by their failure to see it coming! If you want to remain who you are, then you should be able to remain who you are!

The government is telling people truth that they know. And folks think that if they strike for a day, immobilise the system, and probably bring the government to its knees, things will change. No, they wont. The law will now require you to work until you are 62. And if you did not begin work early and have not contributed enough, you work till you are 65!

I listened to a man the other day. He is an asbestos victim. This means that medically, he is in the group of the people whose life expectancy is reduced. To that effect, there was a law that 'had retirement mercy on those who will die early'. So this man was asking about himself. How long will he have to work? Will this new law take away 'the mercy law'? I felt for that man!

In the 80s, the economic prospects of many African countries was hazy, and the IMF administered the SAP pill mercilessly. Governments had to drastically reduce spending, put its citizens in dire situations to be able to meet up with standards of the IMF. The recent IMF reports shows that economic outlook in Africa and Asia is bright and actually lists an African country - Nigeria - as one of the most progressive economies. But things are looking gray in Europe.

We had Iceland, then Greece and many more are on the brink. Countries like Germany and Norway have always had a kind of ongoing SAP in small doses. But for some other countries, like France, a big dose is unavoidable! And that is what the law makers are expecting the people to understand. Maybe the communication work was not well done or not done long enough.. but well

I am not sure that people striking will get much out of it. Whether the strike lasts a day, a week or a month, it will not in any way change the economic outlook of the country. Politicians may lose their offices but the next ones will face the same situation.

The one person who has gained something is Bruno Laporte, a guy who tweeted "Dans le metro. Coincé contre une jolie metisse aux yeux bleus. Je soutiens la grève. :P"

"I am in the Metro, pushed up against a beautiful half-caste with blue eyes. I support the strike"

Monday, October 11, 2010

The United Nations: still relevant in Africa?

This morning I listened to a political big-wig of the Republic of Guinea. He wants the United Nations to come and head the CENI - the national Independent Electoral Committee!

I'm like okay. So what exactly is this guy asking for? What exactly is it?

I see several things:

The first is that the politicians do not trust their own. The first President of the CENI was given so much trouble that the poor man had a heart failure, was taken to hospital in Europe and died there. The second one was from within the same CENI, not from outside. And now one party thinks 'he appears to be running for our opponents'. The new man has come out openly to pledge allegiance to the country but he is still not trusted. I have me two questions, which educated person, capable of heading the CENI will not have a political preference? Where can such a person exist?

The second thing here is that the presidential candidates are actually saying they believe the results of the elections NO LONGER LIE within the ballot boxes but within the CENI! This is outrageous! It is the people that votes. The job of the CENI is to report what the people have said!

Ah! And now I remember. Guinea has never really had a presidential election! After 53 years of Independence, the country is now holding its first ever democratic elections. Mhmm. I see why everybody is freaking out! Like when you went for your first job interview..

One other thing though, The African Union has spent a lot of time and energy mediating through the tens of disputes in Guinea. So Guinean politicians do not only distrust their own, they also do not trust the African Union to oversee a free and fair run-off of presidential elections!

So someone thinks the United Nations is the best option!

I am sitting here and I am trying to recall the last time I saw a UN person working in an African country as a Peace Keeper! When last did you see one? The ones I saw are generally the blue helmets! Next question, what did he look like?

Here is my point. The UN person that will be willing to be assigned to Guinea to do elections oversight will either be:
A. From India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan. He is the blue helmet
B. From South Korea, the Philippines or one other Asian country

He is not going to be European, North American, not even South American. Those guys dont come this way! He is not going to be an Arab from the Mediterranean, those guys wont give their folks in a country like Guinea! The lowest they have gone is RCD!

So what it the Guinean politician asking for? Who is he expecting? French? American? or maybe Central European?

Here! He does not know what he is asking for. He is only expressing his incapacity to trust what he has and build it up. This trait of character that I find in many places in Africa! 'Whatever comes from outside the country is certainly better than what I have here'. Like when Ivorian women beg for Nigerian lace and Nigerian women beg for Woodin! When Ghanaian women come to Abidjan to buy shoes that were brought in from Ghana! When people in West Africa use olive oil for prayer purposes because it is holy, and people in the Northern part swear that palm oil is the richest oil on planet earth!

Otherwise, why will someone from Pakistan, who speaks Urdu and a little English be a heaven-sent to head the CENI in Guinea, where people speak French, Sosso and Madinka?

Je suis vraiment désolée. It is a big pity!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Lesson of Nigeria @ 50

This year's first of October was memorable for many Nigerians. Indeed, unlike many other African who have had their 50th anniversary, the one of Nigeria was one that 'insisted it must be remembered'

I first heard of the 'National Cake' that was going to be unveiled and was supposed to be the larges cake ever! Then I said to myself .. wow, this must be something big!

I did determine to enjoy the day. So I actually did what my parents have always done during Independence Days - Cook, dress up and eat! So I went shopping, did aesthetics and had a nice meal! I even took pictures.

I was happy to see Nigeria trend on Twitter. I did my best to catch up on the tweets. Some were saying how great a country is, and others were saying the exact opposite. But I could see that many of the tweets had a firm hope that the country was on its way to getting better and needs to do that as fast as possible.

Parallel to the news reporting of the celebrations happening at Eagles Square was also the release of school children who had been earlier kidnapped in Aba. It was going to really be a happy day..

Then the twin bomb blasts came! First we got an alert that there were "explosions" and over the minute, it came full force! A guy took a picture of one man who was wounded; He later died. Total number of deaths after the final count - 12

The one lesson I will not forget is how international media got interested in the Independence Day celebrations, not because of the celebrations themselves, but because 'the celebrations are marred by deadly car bombs'. Wow! I kept asking myself, if it were not for the bomb attacks, would they have paid much attention to Nigeria?

Ah! So the negative image of Nigeria is more news-worthy that the sum of its people's happiness? The dead have more attention than the living? The rebels get more mention than the President!

So here is to all Nigerians and to all Africans. If we do not make a positive image of ourselves, the negative ones will continue to sell. IF we do not give healthy information about the good things happening, nobody else will.

We dont need to give the negative news.. folks are already doing that. In fact, they are making their living out of the image of Africa they show out there: sickness, poverty, war, bloodshed, corruption, hopelessness etc..

What will we do?